Sara and Mariaisabel wonder why American Psycho didn’t receive more acclaim, and discuss all the ways race, religion, and sexuality intersect in Stew’s new musical ‘The Total Bent.’
Yesterday, Deaf West Theatre began a Kickstarter campaign to raise $200,000 to perform at this year’s Tony Awards. Their Broadway production of Spring Awakening garnered a Best Revival of a Musical nomination, as well as a nod for director Michael Arden. The show was critically acclaimed for adapting the original punk-rock musical for a deaf cast and for incorporating sign language into the spoken dialogue and choreography. The cast also performed at the White House as part of a celebration of inclusion in the arts. The show closed in January after a limited run.
The campaign has raised $45k towards its $200k goal, which Deaf West claims will be used to “to fly our cast back to New York, we have to get the costumes and instruments and props out of storage, we have to pay for rehearsal space since we don’t have a theatre…and the actual expense of performing on the broadcast!”
Performing at the Tony Awards means having a nation-wide platform for the latest shows appearing on Broadway. For a currently-running show, this is usually an unquestionably necessary marketing investment for a producer in the hopes of drawing in summer tourists. For a closed show, a Tony Awards performance could mean building hype towards a national tour and other future incarnations of the show, or simply a way to document the show’s successes in front of a (much) wider audience. Spring Awakening falls into the latter category, but already has announced a national tour in 2017. Deaf West, its producers, its cast (even those who may not be in the national tour),and creative team will certainly receive more attention from the broadcast.
Then, there’s the more artistic rationale for the broadcast. A televised performance would widely promote Spring Awakening’s message of inclusivity, acceptance, and integrity, especially towards people with disabilities. D.J. Kurs, artistic director of Deaf West, says, “There’s just one night a year that theater gets this platform. Our performance will be an undeniable statement to the world that theater is for everyone.” While this statement is not entirely true (Spring Awakening and other musicals have multiple opportunities nowadays to appeal to nationwide audiences, including performances on morning and late night shows and the livestream of its White House performance), a Tony performance would definitely be a testament to arts inclusion in a year full of discourse on diversity in theater.
But who should really foot this $200K bill? Many closed shows have tried to find funds for a Tony performance and failed. Honeymoon in Vegas, for example, settled on a reunion concert the days after the ceremony after receiving no nominations. Others somehow found the means to perform– Anyone remember that out-of-nowhere performance from Bring It On, co-written by
some guy Lin-Manuel Miranda?
Yes, Deaf West is a nonprofit theater organization (as it emphasizes in the Kickstarter description), but the company and its producers will undoubtedly profit from nationwide attention. This isn’t a little-known, struggling theater company hoping for a boost in the right direction. This is a show with a launched tour, with one of the most successful Broadway producers backing its revival, with several nationwide performances under its belt, including one in front of the Obamas. Despite the honorable intentions of its inspiring cast and creative team, despite the advances the show has gained from its inclusive practices, we are dealing with a FOR-PROFIT Broadway show. Again, its producers WILL profit from this televised performance.
Producer Ken Davenport blogged about the campaign, stating “the financial books are just about buttoned up now. We don’t have $200,000 to spend, no matter how important it is to all of us that this cast get the chance to appear on the show. And honestly, even if we had the money, it wouldn’t be fiscally responsible for us Producers to ask our investors to foot this bill.”
This language is misleading and unethical. Davenport is the leading investor of this show. He famously single-handedly decided to transport the show from L.A. to Broadway. He, his co-producers, and his pool of investors almost certainly can get the $200, 000 to spend. In fact, it’s their job to do so. And if they don’t, well, you lose out on an investment opportunity. For your tour, your production’s legacy, and your cast and creative team. It’s a bit like a corporation asking customers to donate food items for their underpaid actors. That’s an extreme comparison, but one similarly rooted in the language of capitalist venture. It places the burden of charity, and a certain guilt, on anyone other than the people who profit from the inequalities being perpetuated. Davenport’s not Sam Walton, and theatre doesn’t make nearly as much money as bully retailers, but Davenport has everything to gain from your support.
So please, keep your money. This Kickstarter promotes the facade of a grassroots campaign when really, it’s something more of a hoax.
Norma and I bought our LincTix for The King and I way back when it was first announced, when our baby podcast was just a gleam in our eyes. We saw the show back in April, in the throes of busy Broadway season. We were covering shows we were contractually obliged to cover (aka they actually let us see them for free), and were pumping our reviews every fricking night, so The King and I stayed on the backburner for a bit.
That being said, this is one of our best episodes thus far, and we’re super excited to finally upload it. In this episode, we cover the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the strange gossip surrounding Madonna’s texting at Hamilton, and cell phone use in general. Then (around 12:45) we totally nerd out on The King and I, with special guest and King and I expert, David, a once total stranger and now our bffl.
Sara and Mariaisabel discuss the brand new Doctor Zhivago musical and the Broadway transfer of Fun Home. From Russia, and lesbians, with love.
Link to our review of Doctor Zhivago.
Please note that we incorrectly refer to one of the actors in Doctor Zhivago as “Paul Nolan Alexander.” His actual name is Paul Alexander Nolan. We hope he forgives us. Because we sort of love him.
A sweeping musical about a love affair set during a turbulent revolution, Doctor Zhivago has garnered many comparisons to Les Miserables. Its epic tale unravels across the lifetime of its title character who is, quite frankly, the complete package. A doctor AND a poet, he’s got the intelligence, sensitivity, social goodness, income, and good looks (many thanks to leading man Tam Mutu) to attract the attention of every sensible woman in czarist Russia, even the married ones. Lara (Kelli Barrett) first catches the good doctor’s eye when she crashes a party seeking vengeance on a childhood abuser. But the sparks fly some time later, after both are married, when they both work as medics during World War I.
Producers know full well that a large percentage of Broadway audiences are women, and caters to the romantic-minded among us quite well. Zhivago ranks among the greatest romances of all time , and judging from the Broadway production’s marketing materials (Mutu and Barrett in a wintry landscape tightly pressed against each other in luxurious turn-of-the-century garb), the show promises to do the same.
It works for a while. The chemistry between the two leads is palpable, and I felt more than a little anticipation when they finally confess their feelings for each other through a fellow soldier’s letter to his sweetheart, one of the more poignant songs in the show. But the emotional resonance of the second act falls flat. Perhaps the reason for this is its stiff, uninspired staging. For much of the show, the actors stand and sing without much else. Lucy Simon’s lush music and Amy Powers’ and Michael Korie’s poetic lyrics feel heavy and redundant when their presentation is so uninteresting. After two and a half hours, it all starts to feel the same.
Of course, there is more to this story than the romance at its center. Lara and her husband Pasha (a stand-out Paul Alexander Nolan) are socialist idealists at the forefront of the Russian Revolution, which ends the country’s involvement in WWI, but begins decades of civil strife and violent brutality. The musical quite eloquently tracks the evolution of Pasha’s radical ideals into twisted cruelty. When Pasha fires his first fatal shot, you somehow understand this is the first of many to come. Likewise, the show treats the war with surprising vividness. These are the most realistic battle wounds I’ve seen in a Broadway musical, which is equally refreshing and disturbing to see. Zhivago also deals explicitly with topics of sexual abuse, death, and suicide, the latter of which is again graphically shown on stage.
Realism has never been much at home with the musical. Honestly, what can be farther from realism than people breaking out into song every five minutes? But it is telling that a musical like Zhivago, which might otherwise be sanitized as family entertainment, is willing to tackle complicated, dark subject matter with striking vividness. It shows that the form is always finding new ways to mature and evolve.
For more info on Doctor Zhivago.
For more thoughts on the show, listen to our podcast!
An artist, a composer, a nightclub singer, and a ballerina cross paths in post-Vichy Paris as they search for love and inspiration in a city recovering its identity. Based on the award-winning 1951 film of the same name, the new musical An American in Paris doesn’t quite feel like an adaptation, nor derivative in any sense of the word. It feels like a classic Broadway musical, thanks in large part to the recognizably brilliant Gershwin score, but one with the mature clarity and nuanced tonality achieved in opera, ballet, or sophisticated, risk-taking revivals.
Hugh Jackman and his beard
Deborra Lee Furness were out in full force last night. The man hasn’t hosted the Tonys since 2005, and, if you overlook a few minor bumps, it felt like Hugh had never left. Also, winners! Performances! Black people! White people! White people rapping! Black people rapping! Famous people who owe a favor to CBS! This show had everything (and arguably nothing) and our feelings are so feely, we’ll throw in a few gifs to express our sincerest emotions.
Okay, so the night started with an opening number that had no singing, no dancing, and lots of jumping. My mom made the brilliant connection that because he’s Australian, Hugh was imitating a kangaroo. That was as valid and insightful explanation as any. The real inspiration for the jumping was a number called “Take Me to Broadway” from the 1953 movie musical Small Town Girl, in which Bobby Van jumps around town because that’s what people did before the internet or something. Most viewers didn’t get the reference. Even regular musical-watching folks with a decent Broadway knowledge (us) didn’t get the reference. And even if we did have omniscient musical movie knowledge, the segment seemed like a much better fit for a promotional bit or even as a segment in the middle of the show, not as an opening. However, we do want to give credit where due, and this opening did excel in two ways:
1) It gave a brief spotlight on each of the big shows this season (Rocky’s beef racks made a well-deserved cameo), and
2) Holy crap can that man jump! NPH, you’re awesome and stuff, but you can check your magic tricks and your sexy legs at the door. I mean, seriously Hugh, stop taking Wolverine steroids and get your well-insured posterior to a Broadway musical right now! And none of this dramatic play business anymore!
Leave that Jez Butterworth stuff to Mark Rylance and do a dance number for heaven’s sake! Because this is you:
And this is us:
While we’re mentioning Mark Rylance, he can also check his Shakespeare purism at the door with NPH’s magic rabbit and DanRad’s and Denzel’s missing actor nominations. Because while it sounds great to do Shakespeare in its original context and revive that whole standing-for-three-hours-in-London-rain thing, your all white-male cast is definitely not where we’d like theater to be heading. Thankfully, the theater gods seemed to be passing that karma around because after Rylance won the first acting award, people of color started winning ‘dem awards.
Audra McDonald made TONY history, becoming not only the first person to win six acting awards, but also the first person to win in every muthaflippin acting category (Best Lead/Featured in a Play/Musical). She also made a beautiful speech honoring her family and black female performers who paved the way for her own success, like Lena Horne, Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll, Ruby Dee, and Billie Holiday.
Kenny Leon wore some badass sneakers on stage when he beat three white male directors with their entirely white-cast plays. Sophie Okonedo and her gorgeous smile won my heart and a gold statue thing.
And James Monroe Iglehart was just… awesome.
Raisin in the Sun and All the Way won in the play categories, and both feature predominantly black casts. Aladdin, Beautiful, and After Midnight are great productions for people of color, even if A Gentleman’s Guide isn’t. Then, that Music Man rap happened with LL Cool J and TI and it ranked among the best things ever of all time. All you show-tune purists can check your hate at the door along with your Bullets Over Broadway brand umbrella, because this is you:
And this is us:
Last night was also a big night for women. Sutton, Audra, Kelli, and Idina were all nominated in the same frickin’ year. The competition felt hotter than the nominees were after getting wooed by Hugh.
And then relative-newbie Jessie Mueller won and it was all so surprising and awesome and cute!
Lena Hall almost stole the show from NPH as gender-bending Yitzhak with a great acceptance speech and and even better performance.
Women and people of color were largely absent from the writing categories, which was made even more blatantly obvious by
forcing having the playwrights speak about their own works. Not only were they all white older men, they also looked anxious as hell to get back to their seats. There’s a reason awkward people become writers and not performers. Even Harvey Fierstein looked uncomfortable, and that man should be used to uncomfortable situations- he had to play Tevye to Rosie O’Donnell’s Golde.
As usual, the presenters were largely famous people who kind of sort of maybe have some theater experience, or are in a play right now. The TONY Awards occupy this weird liminal space where they’re broadcasting nationally, but honoring shows that all perform within a mile radius of each other. Booking celebs is pretty much the only way to insure that people might actually care enough to watch. Therefore, Jennifer Hudson sings that Neverland song. Otherwise, that combo would have been really awkward or something….
Another result of this weird liminal space thing was the controversial decision to have RuPaul introduce Hedwig given a) his recent transphobic debacle and b) the fact that the producers might be conflating being a drag queen with being transgender.
Jonathan Groff subtly paid homage to John Travolta’s “Adele Dazeem” mistake, which almost makes up for the fact that he is friends with Lea Michele.
Kenny B, you just get better with age. That face. That hair.
Lots of the year’s biggest musicals didn’t get nominated but still performed. Because marketing. Some of the performances worked, some didn’t. There’s no doubt that Idina’s a powerhouse, but when put out of context, “Always Starting Over” falls a bit emotionally flat. The gangster tap dance from Bullets was cool, but we could think of a few more whimsical numbers that would have grabbed more attention. Rocky tried to replicate its stadium sized finale with just a manually-moved boxing ring, and that didn’t really work out as well as they might have hoped. It also doesn’t help the performers’ energy if these highly anticipated shows got zilch in nominations. The season’s surprising frontrunner, A Gentleman’s Guide made the smartest selection: Jefferson Mays introduced the performance in three different characters with chameleon-like prowess, allowing Bryce Pinkham, Lisa O’Hare, and Lauren Worsham the spotlight to duke it out in one of the show’s best numbers (and one that still works out of context).
And while this year’s Tony Awards wasn’t the best, at least we can look forward to more Sting shenanigans for next year.
Three days after the TONY Awards and I’m still recovering from all the happiness and the love and the theater and the happiness and the love… More so because of my chance to play audience member to the dress rehearsal! 16 Handles, which is only the best froyo to grace planet Earth with its presence, held a contest for three winners to win a pair of tickets each to the dress rehearsal if they could write a short entry on why they should win. I didn’t actually save a copy, but my entry went something like this:
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE! I LOVE YOU 16 HANDLES! I’D DO ANYTHING! ME BROADWAY WANT!
Nah, guys, for real, it was much more eloquent than that. I made some witty Broadway puns, compared yogurt toppings to the Kinky Boots costume department, said they’d be my fairy godmother taking me to the ball… stuff like that. Plus, I mentioned LMezz and how wonderful y’all are.
Winners were announced on Thursday. I got the e-mail while at work and I was smiling like a crazy lady all day long. Then I made my sister and Norma fight to the death for the second ticket and after a brutally bloody battle (hair was ripped, skin was scratched, shoes were thrown) Norma won!
I was under the assumption that seats were first come, first serve, so of course I got to Radio City Music Hall about two hours early to find that there were only about fifteen people in line! SCORE! ORCHESTRA SEATS! Well, no, actually– seats were actually assigned. Sticking to our namesake, we were seated in the first mezz. And even though I got stuck in a useless line for two hours alone listening to other people brag about ‘hanging out’ with Hugh Jackman and Idina Menzel (psshhttt yeaahhh) I got to see a few cast members arrive at the theater and unload their sets and costumes.
I also got to enter the theater early and catch a quick pre-dress run of the opening number. And can we just take a minute to talk about how miraculous beautiful that opening number was?! It was big, it was hilarious, it was NPH at his very best. It was well-choreographed. It mixed Broadway-insider jokes with a healthy dose of, well, Mike Tyson. It had magic! (If someone can explain to me how that trick was done, I’ll love them forever.) But most of all, it was inspiring. It got to the heart of why Broadway and any celebration of the performing arts is vital to our culture. It gave hope to current and future struggling performers that their work can pay off.
At the same time, there were several jokes throughout the evening that gave us a grittier insight into the life of someone in the performing arts. The ‘TV Show’ number, the jokes about equity and sketchy insurance plans, it perhaps was meant to take a stab at depleting arts funding and the current instability of the arts field. Which was why it bothered me so much that presenters from long-running shows (like the Newsies boys, Guy/Girl, Mufasa/Simba) went unnamed throughout the evening. I mean, can we at least get a “And now, welcome (Actor’s Name) as Simba!” It’s not that hard. (The Craptacular writes pretty insightfully about this and points out as well that NO ONE would expect a well-known star like Alan Cumming or Scarlet Johanssen to present without a proper introduction.)
And speaking of presenters, apparently, showing up to dress rehearsal is optional. Bigger names, like Tom Hanks, ScarJo, Jake Gyllenhaal, Alan Cumming, Cuba Gooding Jr. (who subsequently flubbed his lines) didn’t show up. But Anna Kendrick did (and subsequently covered for Cuba), Sally Field and Jesse Eisenberg did. So did Zachary Quinto (in a brooding blaze of glory). Every time a presenter was announced, there was this suspenseful atmosphere– would the famous name actually walk out from backstage or would it just be a Theater Wing stand-in? It was actually kind of fun placing bets in the split second before the presenter walked out on whether the name would match the face. And oh the applause when it was actually them! And when Patti Lupone walked out in her sweatpants, and Bernadette Peters came out in flip-flops… it was glorious.
The nominees weren’t there either (unless they had to perform) and stand-ins were also used in their place. Winners were announced (with FOR THIS REHEARSAL ONLY stated before each one) and fake winners accepted awards along with fake speeches. It was pretty interesting to see what speeches the fake winners would actually come up with. Most went with the “You know, when I was a little girl…” or the “Broadway is magical because…” route. Tom Hank’s fake winner broke the cliches with “Please donate to my charity for children in Salzburg who have never seen The Sound of Music.”
All the performances were brilliant. It made me realize how much I’ve missed out on this season. I gotta get on Matilda like right now. It was also fascinating to see how staging works at an awards show and how much a good camera angle can hide while another performance is setting up or a presenter is moving around on stage. But can we just talk about Arthur Darvill and how amazing he is? You poor television broadcast-watchers only got to see half of his Once performance. We got to see the whole caboodle. (You can too here.) And Arthur, what a voice!
And then this happened:
It’s me in the cropped right hand section. Just take it for granted.
Let me tell you a story about why this photo is so important. Two Easters ago, the Doctor Who cast was filming in New York in Central Park. So if course, I stalked. Now, Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are wonderful. I had previously met them when they premiered season five in New York along with head writer and evil torturer Steven Moffat. I even got a photo with Matt Smith. That was nice. But, this time around, I was set on getting a photo with Arthur. Anyone who has watched the Who knows that Rory Williams is probably the most perfect male character on television and all men should probably be him at some point in their lives. No pressure. And Arthur, while not as intense or keen an actor as Matt Smith or David Tennant, plays Rory with charm and great comedic timing.
So I waited an hour or two at Central Park while the cast filmed. There was a giant crowd of Who fans surrounding the set and the actors would not possibly be able to get pictures or sign autographs with everyone there. But lo! it appeared that Arthur had finished his scenes and was getting ready to leave. So Arthur and a few crew members slipped quickly away while Matt and Karen stayed behind to finish shooting. So I too quietly slipped away. While the other Who fans stayed watching the rest of the shoot. And I had the PERFECT opportunity to get my photo with Arthur. There were no fans around and all I’d need to do is ask nicely and get a quick shot before skipping away like a happy fangirl. But I didn’t. I chickened out. And as Arthur and the crew drove away, this incident became a metaphor for all the times in my life that I let opportunities pass me by. Womp Womp.
So when I exited Radio City Music Hall and I saw Arthur Darvill standing right in front of me taking a picture of Radio City Music Hall, it was like getting a second chance to redeem my life wrongs.